The Toronto Maple Leafs will not be sending all of their all-stars to the All-Star Game.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are one of the elite NHL teams that has once again fallen victim to the terrible All-Star Game rules put in place by an out-of-touch commissioner and league, in a move that threatens the legitimacy of the game.
Every year the NHL All-Star game rolls around and the question of what determines an “All-Star” pops up. The literal definition of an All-Star is “composed wholly of outstanding performers or players”, so how do you judge who is an All-Star and who isn’t?
In hockey there is a quantifiable way to judge how players have impacted their team, and the games they have played in: the points the have scored. If the league leader in points has 53 (although at the time of writing it is actually both Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl tied with 53) then surely a 48-point haul, good for 4th league wide, constitutes an All-Star?
How about 45 points, 41 points or 40 points which ranks 6th, 7th and 8th respectively? Out of 713 skaters in the NHL is 4th, 6th, 7th and 8th top scorer in the league not “outstanding”?
According to the NHL, no. Former Toronto Maple Leafs centre Nazem Kadri is having a barn-storming season with 48 points but he doesn’t make the cut. Neither does Steven Stamkos (6th), Brad Marchand (7th) or Mikko Rantenen (8th). In fact, 5 of the top 15 point getters in the NHL are not All-Stars this year.
The NHL All-Star Game
It is just another year where the Toronto Maple Leafs suffer, along with the Colorado Avalanche, the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Boston Bruins. These are elite NHL teams that are seeing their number of All-Star players drop because of the league’s rule. These are elite teams, punished, for being better and having better players.
All of this is because the NHL had a crisis a few years ago, seeing its NHL All-Star Game viewership declining. In a move that, on the face of it solved that issue, the NHL instituted the rule that every team had to be represented.
In the league’s eyes, if every team was represented then every market would have a vested interest in the weekend; a rising tide lifts all boats. It was a simplistic and naïve move from the NHL, and one that, unfortunately demonstrated just how out-of-touch the Commissioner and his office are.
The office’s obliviousness and outdatedness that has continued since then, but this year perhaps more so than previous years, the list of non-attendees is shocking and completely unfair.
The issue with the NHL mandating that every team needs to be represented is two-fold.
Firstly, the problem with the ASG was not to do with a lack of equal representation, it was because it, for lack of a better word, sucked. It’s just not interesting. Players aren’t playing hard, there is no defence; it’s the furthest thing from a real game and all of that makes it boring.
The NHL likes to hold the ASG above all other events, such as the Heritage Classic, the Winter Classic and the NHL Global Series but in truth, the All-Star Game is the worst of the bunch. It doesn’t have the outdoor venue excitement of the Winter or Heritage Classic nor the international taste of the Global series.
The skills competition on the other hand, is exciting because players are trying and properly competing. The lackluster play of the actual All-Star Game is awful television. One last note about the game, the idea of a mid-season All-Star Game is uniquely North American and driven by money. Try telling soccer players in Europe they would stop mid-season to all play a fun game on a random team – players do not want to get hurt playing a meaningless game yet this notion persists.
Forcing them to play something that means nothing, but if they get injured means everything shows and so players play defensively to avoid injuries which makes the game suffer.
Secondly, and it cannot be stressed enough, these players are competitive and the ones that are excelling should be rewarded with an All-Star berth. Nazem Kadri has always been immensely talented, and the Toronto Maple Leafs fans know that better than most. He has been let down by moments of idiocy, but when is Kadri going to be having a productive season like this one again? Maybe never, but Clayton Keller is picked over him just because Kadri happens to be on a team with two other All-Stars? It’s unfathomable.
No disrespect to Clayton Keller, he has no control over this, but players like Kadri, Marchand, Stamkos, Nylander and Tavares aren’t going because of an out-of-touch league office. Aaron Ekblad is having a Norris calibre season but falls victim to the same issue.
Unfortunately, the NHL is so behind the times, there is little to be expected of them anymore. If you need more convincing, Nathan MacKinnon said it best, “It’s an All-Star Game, not a participation game”.